On Preemption: Carrying The Water For Monsanto In Hawaii – An Open Letter To State Legislators

Dear Legislator,

I know how busy you are and that you are dealing with a myriad of issues important to the State of Hawaii, so I will cut to the chase.

Taking away County authority to regulate agriculture and/or pesticides is both bad policy and bad politics.  Please don’t go there.

Last year Monsanto and friends attempted to slip through SB727 literally taking away the Counties right to protect health and life.  It’s no secret they will be trying again during the 2014 legislative session to both avoid any new regulation and to nullify existing laws passed in both Kauai and Hawaii County.

The Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Senator Nishihara has already announced introduction of a Bill he said “many are calling The Monsanto Protection Act”.

To say that this Bill and other similar efforts will be fought vigorously by thousands of residents who live in all parts of our State is an understatement.

One size does not fit all and the Hawaii and Kauai County situations are solid examples.

Kauai’s concern is primarily with the health and environmental impacts of intensive pesticide application being conducted near schools, hospitals and homes.  Hawaii County is concerned with the impacts of genetically modified pollen drift combined with a desire to limit the unregulated expansion of agrochemical companies in their community.  On Maui and Oahu the concerns will likewise be specific to those particular communities.

There is a clear disconnect between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Agriculture (DOA) with regards to responsibility in this area.  Neither seems willing to assume the lead role in protecting the community from pesticide misuse and both are in the midst of a leadership changes.

The (DOH) conducts no regular consistent systematic testing of soil, water or air in the vicinity of these industrial operations.  And there has never been a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of this industry on adjacent communities.

The (DOA) has shown by its past action and inaction that it’s not equipped or interested in accepting the responsibility.  The DOA does not even know what pesticides are used, how much is used, nor where they are being used.   On Kauai, companies that apply pesticides 250 times per year might be inspected by the DOA 7 times per year and 43% of the inspection logs are redacted and blocked from public review.

It can take years for the DOA to complete investigations of pesticide drift and the surrounding community is not notified or warned until after the investigation is concluded.

Taking away local control and replacing it with a one size fits all big brother solution, managed by industry friendly agencies woefully ill-equipped to fulfill their existing mandates is the answer being sought by Monsanto and friends.

These agrochemical companies produce no food for local consumption and pay minimal GET while benefiting from numerous State and County subsidies. They lease State lands, pay very low rents and have not complied with HRS Chapter 343 (EIS law).  While claiming to be “highly regulated” they operate with impunity applying hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals annually into our local environment.

People on Kauai are getting sick. Local physicians testify their patients have ten times the national rate of certain rare birth defects.  Sea urchins have died off and students and teachers at local schools located adjacent to heavily sprayed fields have been taken to the hospital.  The new Kauai ordinance requires basic disclosure of pesticide use and modest buffer zones.  We are not asking for trade secrets nor chemical formulas.

The industry response is to file suit against the people of Kauai and press upon their friends in the legislature to have our law and these minimal protections to our community nullified.

Please, don’t go there.  Don’t give the largest companies in the world even more power through the dis-empowering of our community and others around our State.


Gary Hooser – Kauai County Councilmember and former Colleague

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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21 Responses to On Preemption: Carrying The Water For Monsanto In Hawaii – An Open Letter To State Legislators

  1. Beck Virginia says:

    Mahalo, Gary,

  2. Deb Mader says:

    Excellent letter! Mahalo!
    I’m writing too…

  3. Alita Warner says:

    Thanks for speaking so clearly on this important issue. It is difficult to understand why no health studies were done on GMO safety before it came to be 70% of our food supply. And for years we heard how safe many pesticides were, only later to find out something different. Service to people seems to be lost in government unless you can write a big check -which fewer of us can do. Of course if you are the one writing checks and making them feel special and important, I guess you are the person served. I guess this must be one of the ways that corporations are like people.

  4. Pingback: From Gary Hooser, Kauai County Councilmember… “On Preemption: Carrying The Water For Monsanto In Hawaii – An Open Letter To State Legislators” | Kauilapele's Blog

  5. Sandee says:

    Mahalo Gary for representing the “best interest” of the safety and well being of all Hawaii’s citizens. We the people of Hawaii voice with urgency that our political representatives make decisions to ensure protection from chemical company bullies that now threaten to sue so they may continue to poison our fragile environment. Our cry for help is to “ACT NOW” we have no time to waste.. It is not complicated when taking a bold stand to SIMPLY do the “right thing”.

  6. mira walker says:

    Mahalo Gary for a clear and concise appeal to support the land and its people

  7. Marylei Drake says:

    God bless you, Gary. You have all the respect and gratitude in the world coming from the Big Island of Hawaii. You paved the way for us. I pray that your message does not continue to fall on deaf (and bought) ears.

  8. Paul Miller says:

    Thank you Gary

  9. Karen Crutcher says:

    Mahalo Gary Hooser!!!!!!

  10. It’s sad Mr. Hooser that your intent is to even kill the small farmers in our islands. Where’s some honestly and a sense of integrity sir? You’ve had your mob associate GMOs with pesticides. It simply is not true and I somehow think you know this. Does papayas have increased pesticides from going transgenic? No. Has living near a papaya field killed or maimed anyone? No. Please set your followers straight for once because you causing more collateral damage with your mantras. Where’s your aloha towards the other farmers?

    • garyhooser says:

      Thank you Joni for your comment. This is the first time you have even approached being civil to me in a direct conversation. I hope you realize that I have never attacked you or your father or the papaya industry. Just like I don’t blame you for all of the sins of Monsanto and company, I would hope you likewise would not expect me to be responsible for all the wrongs of the anti gmo crowd. You make personal attacks on me and my family – I have never once mentioned you or your father. What is your purpose of putting my sons name as a tag within the url of your blog? It seems you wish to harass us personally rather than approach us with reasonable dialogue. My arguments and the purpose of Bill 2491 have been always to address the impacts of the agrochemical companies on my community. There is no question and I have the data to prove it, that these companies use far more pesticides on Kauai than they do anywhere else where they are growing crops for market. On Kauai the vast bulk of the activity is experimental in nature and the multiple crop growing cycle results in much heavier pesticide use than anywhere else. As to collateral damage – I have not researched the pesticide use by the papaya industry and don’t believe I have ever criticized the papaya industry for excessive pesticide use. My focus and my energy has and is on the impacts to the health and environment of my community. The fact that these companies are suing Kauai County for the right to spray pesticides next to schools and to not disclose that to us, says a lot about the type of companies we are dealing with. Please know also that I have no “followers” and that people do not answer to me and I do not presuppose to offer anyone orders. I have in the past encouraged people on both sides of the issue to take it easy and to lighten up on the personal rhetoric. However, the vast majority of my time is spent at home with my family. Contrary to the stereotype, I prefer to stay home and prefer letting the community lead while I support that leadership as best I can. I have learned over the years that is the way to get things done. The Bill came about because people in the community were/are concerned about the impacts caused by the pesticide/gmo activity on our island. As a council member, I am compelled to try to advance measures that will deal with those concerns and increase the protection of health and the environment. Disclosure, buffer zones and a study are REASONABLE measures and again the fact that these very large companies are unwilling to comply with our communities request is telling. While I am not confident that it will happen, I am open to continuing to have a civil and open conversation with you. I just ask that you do not make personal attacks. Again, I have never ever said an unkind word toward you or your father.

      • When I read the actual “data” that you have provided for your claims vs. what the real facts point to, why not point it out to your followers? It is really 18 tons or just over 9.89 tons of active ingredients? Now many of your followers all think any biotech farmer “drenches poisons” to grow their crops and that it is all inherently dangerous. While you might think that you’re not directing this towards us personally, it directly affects the papaya farmers with the barrage of misinformation being spread by you and your son. This cannot go on unchecked anymore.

        If we want to talk about harassment, you might want to ask the papaya farmers about their feelings about that. They have endured it far too long and as public figures leading this campaign, being out there like that is subject to public opinion. If you and your son have the freedom of speech to say such things, anyone has the right to counter it.

        I’m not sure you’re aware of this, but many of your faithful followers have threatens crop destruction on biotech crops because of the fear campaign. If you wish to not be criticized by me or others, come clean about the truth that this is not really about pesticides, but really about that group you associate with, GMO Free.

  11. garyhooser says:

    OK Joni. I was hoping we could somehow make a transition to having a civil discussion but it seems that it not to be the case. My figures of 18 tons comes directly from the Department of Agriculture reports. They do not report only on active ingredients but on the entire contents of the RUP which is what I am following as well. The fact that you continue to speak about my so-called “followers” shows me that you don’t really want to have a civil conversation. I have never advocated for nor do I support crop destruction or any illegal activity. And I certainly have no knowledge of nor involvement in anything that goes on in Hawaii County involving this. And FWIW many groups supported Bill 2491 including the Hawaii State Teachers Association, The Hawaii Nurses Association, Local 5 Hotel Workers, a majority of the licensed pediatricians on Kauai, numerous businesses, thousands of individuals and yes…gmo free Kauai also supported the Bill. I am certainly not saying you should not be allowed to counter the facts as absolutely that is your right. My objection is the personal nature of your postings…posting things that have nothing to do with the facts or even the subject that is being discussed. Again, I have never ever posted any derogatory comment or photo of you or your father. And nor will I.

    • However, you are using government regulation to not only kill the livelihoods of other farms like ours and others using unfounded facts and misinformation about biotech. That already is an issue not only by myself but by others who are not willing to speak up and be subjected to the tactics of the GMO Free club.

      I find it interesting that legislators who could have addressed the issues that you speak up didn’t do their jobs so you say. Is creating yet another duplicate function of them is going to suddenly make people trust government now? That I find very confusing. The same goes for the labeling issue that these folks don’t trust the Feds to do it so they want the state to do it. Will a label and county level rules suddenly going to be the panacea for trust once again? I wonder about that.

  12. Corn says:

    It is interesting that you sidestep the issue brought to your attention regarding the actions of many supporters seeking the poorly written HB2491. There are multiple farmers and ranchers that are both small and large in size, that supported the bills brought forward by Nishihara. Your choice to justify your actions by commenting on one company driving the process is sadly ill informed. By continuing to call out one company, in a state that has over 7,500 farmers supporting legislation to protect all farmers and their trade, singles out the people feeding you. Every farmer regardless of size uses some technology to grow their crops. It can be as simple as the shovel that moves the dirt to open the ground or as advanced as the GPS unit guiding the tractor in the field. Pesticides are a tool, biotechnology is a tool, tractors are a tool. Combining those things, allows farmers to feed you and your constituents. Let’s not make farmers of any size the enemy. Let’s work to solve the educational gap about what farmers really do, how they help feed the world and how technology that contains biotech traits or not, will ensure a long and lasting society.

    • garyhooser says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read this blog…but I think you are misinterpreting my writing. Monsanto is a symbol of technology run amok. The discussion is not driven by one company but by one industry. The Bill Senator Nishihara and others seek to move forward into law is for primary purpose of protecting the 5 agrochemical companies. Kauai’s ordinance 960 which Nishihara’s proposal is intended to nullify, impacts only 5 agricultural operations on Kauai – Kauai Coffee and 4 agrochemical companies. NO OTHER FARMER ON KAUAI USES RESTRICTED USE PESTICIDES TO ANY DEGREE EVEN CLOSE TO THAT USED BY THESE COMPANIES AND THUS ARE NOT IMPACTED AT ALL. Kauai’s legislation does not prohibit the use of pesticides except directly next to schools, hospitals and homes and even then it only impacts the 5 largest users of Restricted Use Pesticides. Requiring DISCLOSURE and minimal BUFFER ZONES that apply to only the largest users of these chemicals, is a REASONABLE request from local government concerned about health and environmental impacts. There is no shortage of evidence and peer reviewed studies that indicate without question that pesticides are unhealthy, that people who live near areas of intensive pesticide application and/or who work with pesticides have higher rates of various health problems. The science is also clear that children and pregnant women are at a higher risk. Syngenta is based in Switzerland. Switzerland has banned the use of Atrazine. Syngenta is suing Kauai County for the right to spray Atrazine next to our schools. The preemption Bills being put forth by Senator Nishihara are simply legislative initiatives that are written and promoted by these 5 companies to protect their rights to spray toxic pesticides without interference from local government.

      • Corn says:

        Again, you target one company. Many companies help drive food production in the world. There are over 150 seed corn companies in North America alone. Do you attack Apple because of their iPhone? Remember there is legislation being proposed warning of cancer right now in the state when using a cell phone. You single out a company for their success in helping feed the world. You do realize the largest users of pesticides in the state are not seed companies, correct? Even on your island you’ll find that is not the case, if you take the time to look at the data. Farmers use technology created by the big seed companies to be successful. They use pesticides like you use a computer, as a tool. You can choose to make a farmer a villain or you can help them be successful. You have that power with every keystroke. Again, do not focus on a company, focus on Agriculture and recognize the companies you despise farm very well and really do feed the world.

      • garyhooser says:

        It is the agrochemical industry that is the largest user of Restricted Use Pesticides in Kauai County, without question. Yes, I have looked at the data, over and over again. I probably know the Kauai County data better than anyone and I know clearly that the largest users (largest number of any user in terms of different types of RUP’s and largest physical quantity of all agricultural users) of Restricted Use Pesticides are the 5 companies and no other operation even comes close. Yes, the County uses chlorine gas for water purification which is technically a Restricted Use Pesticide, but they do not spray it next to schools, hospitals and homes and we know exactly how much they use (for all pesticides). And no, Monsanto and these companies are not feeding the world. The vast majority of GMO products are used for corn syrup, cattle feed and ethanol. You don’t feed the world with corn syrup and steak. I digress…the ordinance on Kauai is not about GMO’s but it is about the impacts of large agribusiness operations that use large amounts of pesticides…and the impacts that use causes on the health and environment of my community. We are only asking for disclosure and modest buffer zones. These same buffer zones are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health and public interest organizations. This is not about eating the corn. It is not really about GMO’s, but is about the health and environmental impacts that occur in specific communities as a result of these industrial operations.

  13. Corn says:

    Great follow up and thank you for the clarification. Based on your comments, then there is no need for an environmental impact study on the products those companies may be growing that may or may not contain GMO traits? We Can now focus on tools farmers use to control pests in their crops. What do we do about the homeowners who don’t want bugs?

    • garyhooser says:

      Am happy to see our conversation taking a more cordial and civil tact…but you put words in my mouth 🙂 I am speaking primarily to the situation on Kauai and primarily to the situation as to intensive pesticide use. However, the experimental growing of genetically modified organisms that by definition are not approved for human consumption or for release into the environment are also a concern. And so yes, an EIS for large scale operations like this should be a requirement. Your question about bugs is one that the industry always throws up as well…so my short answer is that the concerns in my community are from people living in areas adjacent to large scale, large pesticide using industrial farming operations. No one is complaining to me about bugs in their homes. That is a red herring I am not going to go after. It is safe to say that all pesticides are bad and dangerous depending on the dose. My focus are the companies that use ton’s of the Restricted Use Pesticides not those individuals that purchase one can of spray a year. So will say goodbye for today. I have no time to monitor or respond so let’s say aloha on this conversation and start another on another day and another topic. A hui hou.

  14. marybarter says:

    Interesting that the only pushback to Gary Hooser comes from the industry itself. But it always does. Gonsalves and the Papaya folks are being used and badly so, by the chemical GMO industry. The business model and the tactics are completely different. We are talking about pesticides, and the companies that make them-not specifically GMO-although GMO crops are always linked to the destructive monoculture model of farming.
    There are plenty of reasons to oppose companies that operate in secret, have multiple superfund sites attached to their activities in small communities like ours, that try repeatedly to, and sometimes succeed in, tampering with and altering the very laws of communities, governments, and of rules of the European Commission (which in the case of GMO crops, EU member states choose to ignore) to favor the companies
    .The “feed the world” argument is so cynical, but pushes emotional buttons in people who fail to look deeper into the issue. The reports from numerous agencies, including the UN IAASTD, that study food and hunger policies that have refuted the argument over and over. Even if they were growing food, getting food to hungry people is not about increasing yields of huge monoculture farms. The monoculture model gains yields through pesticide use, and arguably through gene technology, but it does so at great cost to the soil. which must be not only replenished improved if food is to be grown in the future. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides burn up the soil, killing beneficial organisms that make actually make nutrients available to plants in healthy soil. There are many issues that stand in the way of feeding hungry people, not the least of which is they have to be able to buy the food, and are to poor to do so.
    There are those like The US. chamber of Commerce, and now our local Chambers of Commerce here in Hawaii being funded and flattered by agribusiness, and that’s how our local citizens, not even employed by them, perhaps unwittingly become the cover and the foot soldiers of the companies we are talking about.

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